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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 7/12/11

Israel's Knesset Passes Boycott Prohibition Bill

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Henceforth, persons accused of advocating or participating in boycotts will be subject to civil and criminal prosecutions. ACRI and other human rights groups warned about a broad range of affected activities, including publishing Israeli and settlement-related human rights violations, refusing to travel to settlements or do business with them, and publicly supporting consumer boycotts of their products and services.

Last winter, over 40 Israeli organizations petitioned against the bill, calling it "a dangerous piece of legislation, which tramples on basic rights, first and foremost among them the rights to freedom of expression, protest and assembly."

More recently, 53 Israeli human and civil rights organizations wrote Knesset Speaker MK Reuven Rivlin, expressing opposition to the bill. Included were ACRI, B'Tselem, Gisha, Amnesty Israel, Physicians for Human Rights/Israel, Rabbis for Human Rights, Adalah, Yesh Din, Hotline for Migrant Workers, and the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel.

Even anti-boycott groups signed it, united in believing this type activity is "a civilian, nonviolent and legitimate tool to express opinion and advance social and political change."

The bill's original version included foreign citizens, prohibited from entering and conducting business in Israel for up to 10 years if found guilty. Now removed also was a provision permitting Israel to withhold debts owed other states supporting boycotts, and banning them from doing business in Israel.

ACRI calls boycotts a legitimate tool, commonplace in Israel for many reasons. Criminalizing it "would be unprecedented in any democratic regime. People may find a specific call for boycott irritating and even offensive, yet this is the real test of" free expression, protecting opposition opinions.

Israel's bill also broadens the notion of boycotts to silence and persecute anti-occupation supporters. As a result, "(w)e are once again witnessing the trampling of rights at the hands of the current political majority."

Last February, ACRI's Executive Director, Hagai El-Ad said:

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